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Will Information Security Roles Help Women Enter the Corporate Boardroom?

Earlier this year, two major financial institutions appointed women to serve on their Board of Directors based on their cybersecurity expertise. Linda Mills was elected to the board of American Insurance Group in July of 2015, and was also added to the board’s technology committee.1 Before AIG, Mills spent more than a decade at security giant Northrop Grumman. Suzanne Vautrinot, a retired Major General and Commander in the U.S. Air Force, was appointed to Wells Fargo’s board in February 2015.2 During her career with the Air Force, Vautrinot oversaw the 24th Air Force and Air Force Cyber, managing the Air Force’s portion of the Department of Defense’s global network. In fact, over the last five years, six of the largest U.S. companies have appointed ten new females to their boards based on their cybersecurity credentials.3

These appointments represent small steps toward equality as women continue to be very underrepresented in corporate boardrooms. Twenty-three Fortune 500 companies have all-male boards.4 A further twenty-eight percent of Fortune 500 companies have only one female board member.5 In fact, fewer than one percent of Fortune 500 corporate boards have achieved (or surpassed) gender parity. In addition, it seems that male board members are unlikely to proactively pursue change in this respect: only thirty-five percent of male board members feel that having even a single female board member is “very important.”6 These statistics persist despite recent reports that have found that “large companies with at least one woman on their boards performed better than their all-male counterparts, and boards with three or more female directors enjoyed particular success.”7

The cybersecurity field presents a great opportunity for women in business due to the incredibly rapid growth of the field. Quoting Linda Hudson, the “cybersecurity-savvy” Chairman and CEO of the Cardea Group and a director at Bank of America, a recent article in Bloomberg noted that “[the information security field] was a new area where opportunities opened themselves up pretty much to the best qualified…That leveled the playing field immensely.”8 Indeed, women may be uniquely qualified to join the new field. In the military context, “[u]ntil the early 90s women were barred from certain combat units so they often took back-office jobs in IT and telecommunications.”9 In fact, according to a report released by (ISC)2 in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, “women are quickly converging on men in terms of academic focus, computer science and engineering” suggesting that women will, moving forward, be qualified for cybersecurity positions in higher numbers than ever.10 In addition, two of the research review panel members identified characteristics most typically held by women as being particularly valuable in the Information Security field.11

However, as is the reality in many technology-related fields, men currently continue to dominate the cybersecurity field. Not only is cybersecurity a male-dominated space, the proportion of men to women in the industry is growing.12 Further, the industry also sees inequalities in pay based on gender.13 Regardless, the appointment of these women represents an important and very visible step in both the corporate and technology worlds.

  1. Liz Werner, Linda A. Mills Elected to AIG Board of Directors, Business Wire (July 15, 2015), 

  2. Suzanne M. Vautrinot Elected to the Board of Wells Fargo & Company, Wells Fargo (Feb. 24, 2015), 

  3. Anders Merlin, Why Corporate Boards are Picking Women to Fill Cybersecurity Posts, Bloomberg Business (Oct. 22, 2015), 

  4. Caroline Fairchild, The 23 Fortune 500 Companies with All-Male Boards, Fortune (Jan. 16, 2015), 

  5. Claire Groden, Just 35% of Males Directors Think Having a Female Board Member is ‘Very Important’, Fortune (Oct. 6, 2015), 

  6. Id. 

  7. Id. 

  8. Id. 

  9. Id. 

  10. Women in Security: Wisely Positioned for the Future of InfoSec, at 3, available at 

  11. Id. at 14. 

  12. Many More Men Than Women Are Drawn to Cybersecurity Careers- and the Gap is Widening Dramatically, New Survey Says, Marketwatch (Oct. 26, 2015),—and-the-gap-is-widening-dramatically-new-survey-says-2015-10-26; Michael Cooney, Cybersecurity Careers: Where are the Women?, Network World (Oct. 27, 2015), Securing Our Future: Closing the Talent Gap, Raytheon, available at 

  13. Jim Finkle, Men Vastly Outnumber Women in Cyber Security Field, Huffington Post (Sept. 28, 2015),